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Which exercise is best, cardio or weight lifting?

By: Ann Marie Coppen

Anne Marie Coppen

PhD, FNP, Nurse Practitioner

For a personal response to your health question, Ask Ann Marie at askannmarie@lindora.com. Selected questions will be featured in future columns.

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This is a great question and my response is whichever you can do as long as you exercise. Both are good methods for improving your health, having more energy, and living longer! Performing aerobic (cardio) exercise and anaerobic (weight lifting; brief high-intensity workout) exercise will provide you with different benefits. Doing both will help sculpt your physique, increase stamina, and assist weight loss.

Aerobic exercise makes your heart and lungs work harder than anaerobic exercise, which increases muscle mass. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise can help you burn fat. Consistent aerobic exercise not only can help with weight loss but also aids in reducing symptoms of depression by raising levels of serotonin (the chemical in charge of mood regulation). With increasing muscle mass (anaerobic exercise), you will burn fat long after you have completed your workout. Lifting weights helps burn fat longer by increasing your metabolism.

Examples of aerobic exercise includes:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Jogging
  • Aerobic classes
  • Using various stationary devices (i.e. elliptical machine, stationary bike)

Example of Anaerobic exercises include:

  • Lifting weight
  • Jumping rope
  • Resistance training

How many calories you burn doing any exercise will vary with gender, weight, and age. The Mayo Clinic estimates that a person weighing 160 pounds can burn approximately 183 calories by walking for one hour at 2 miles per hour.  This same person doing high impact aerobics can burn 511 calories; playing one hour of tennis singles can burn 584 calories. A person weighing 160 pounds can burn approximately 532 calories with vigorous weight lifting for one hour.

Remember to consult with your doctor prior to beginning any exercise regime.  In addition you may want to consult a certified personal trainer for proper weight lifting techniques

Whether it is aerobic or anaerobic exercise, invest in yourself and make time to exercise!

“What causes a muscle burning sensation during exercise?”

Exercise can result in a burning sensation as a result of lactic acid production. According to the National Federation of Personal Trainers, exercise sets that exhaust your muscles deplete muscle energy which is essential in removing cellular waste by-products, such as lactic acid.  Lactic acid is produced when glucose (sugar) is broken down for energy. As the muscle energy decreases, more lactic acid accumulates in your muscle fibers, producing the heavy sensation in the muscles and the burning.

For individuals that regularly exercise, this may be unavoidable. However there is some preventive action that you can take:

  1. Stretch before beginning a workout.
  2. Give yourself adequate recovery time between exercise sets.
  3. After you finish training, consider doing some slow cardio exercise, like walking, for 15 minutes.
  4. Drink plenty of water preferably with some electrolytes such as potassium, calcium, sodium, and magnesium.  These are important for muscle recovery and help to reduce fatigue.
  5. Consider taking vitamins and mineral supplements.
  6. Consider massaging the targeted muscle area after a workout.
  7. Heat and/or ice pads can help soothe the muscle discomfort.
  8. Allow yourself plenty of sleep for muscle recovery and growth.

Be certain that you are aware of the difference between the discomfort of the burning sensation and actual pain. Pain usually takes place suddenly and is sharp in a precise area. This could be of concern so you should stop what you are doing immediately.

Pain can also stem from muscle cramps. Muscle cramps occur when the muscle involuntarily contracts and cannot relax. This tends to occur on muscles that we have voluntary control over. Almost everyone in their lifetime will have a muscle cramp.

Muscle cramps can sometimes begin with a spasm.  If this spasm persists, it can become a muscle cramp. Many times muscle cramps are palpable and visible. Some medications can cause muscle cramps, so if you are experiencing muscle cramps, review your medications with your doctor.

Although the development of a muscle cramp is not fully understood, the following can play a role:

  • Not stretching before exercising
  • Disparity in the levels of electrolytes (potassium, sodium, calcium)
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle overuse
  • Exercising in the heat

Remember if you are uncertain of what is prompting pain, do not hesitate to contact your doctor as soon as possible!

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